Writing through video

[This is an excerpt transcribed from the interview to Elisa Sbaragli and Sara Sguotti: you can find the video interview here]

Sara: another interesting point for me is that in the practice of writing, understood in a very broader sense, the use of video is really relevant. It seems to me that the memory of the body is increasingly failing because we have so many digital tools. I sometimes struggle to ‘interpret’ my practice, because what the body feels is different from what the body sees. In choreographic writing introducing the video creates a strange twist: through the medium of the body, you get to the video and then return to the body, without first having processed the ‘writing’ of the body. There is a transmission of signs and meaning between the body and the video. And this is something that leaves me a little cold. When I try to pass on a concept or practice to another person through my words, this person literally ‘reads’ that concept and translates that thing with a form of interpretation that is undoubtedly free. However, unless it’s poetry, it’s quite linked to the idea of ‘translation’ and you have a fairly clear interpretation of it. On the other hand, through the use of video, we talk about ‘body language’, which is so ambiguous and freely interpretable that I can’t give a unique key to interpretation. I wonder if it is the medium that brings about this lack, this emptiness of meaning, the removal of emotions from the body, removing, let’s say its novelty and freshness. Yet even in this case it varies, because for example the other day I saw a whole show on video and the things that were of interest I picked up anyway. But would I have picked them up in the same way if I had been present in the same space and at the same time together with the audience members’ bodies? 

Giovanni: In your practice, when you work alone, do you use the video to have a look at and review what you are doing, and to understand, for example, which parts to keep, which ones interest you the most, which ones are to develop, et cetera? Or do you activate all these processes internally, relying only on your perception?

Sara: For me, writing remains something that I feel, not a form of writing that I review and revise. I make little use of video. But I am well aware that, especially when I work with other people, that there is a need to review, to see yourselves again, to understand your practice also through vision, so this is something that I am still working on. For example, having worked with some people for a lot of time now, video footage really intrigues me. I am interested in seeing the evolution of this person’s practice. I am speaking in this regard as someone who is observing others, so I’m not talking about my practice because I really have always used little video to shoot my own practice. In my opinion, the moment you find something and you can translate it by another means, then it’s better. In my personal practice, at least, I adopt a more sensitive form of writing. However, working with other people who, as Elisa said, have changed their mode of writing by making a lot of use of video, I no longer find the idea of ‘transmitting’ choreography through video relevant, but instead that of ‘performing’ the choreography through the video: writing through the means of the body, then ‘recording’ it with the video and producing a final document which is a video. It is for me no longer a form of writing through the means of the body. I’ve seen this change in people with whom I work with, it’s kind of hard for me to understand just at which point to find the writing.

Giovanni: And what about you Elisa, how do you use video? You use it more, don’t you?

Elisa: Yes, I use it a lot, but I also use it as a way of taking notes: I record my practice and use it as a way of remembering and retrieving it. I have endless videos of footage and archives, although in reality I don’t really like to look at myself much. I also use them often to figure out if things work or not. It is also important for me to imprint my bodily sensations. It’s not video that helps me decide ‘this yes, this no’. But it helps me more in an overall sense, in terms of dramaturgy, in understanding the evolution of the practice in a more objective form, that is, if what is happening in my body actually works or does not work in the sense of performance. I think that the online community DanceMe has helped me a lot in using video, even in a creative form: I have learned to play with video, to make it my historical archive. I probably have an archiving fetish, because I really like to have so much material, which then stays there, that maybe it can be revised, even for other things. It can always serve as a souvenir, of as a left over. I also like video as a mere tool, as a means of work and research, as a technological aid in my work. I really like the practice of video editing; I also like to play with this type of language too.

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